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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) whether marketed foods contain unsafe levels of residues from cancelled pesticides; and (2) the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) procedures for revoking tolerances for cancelled food-use pesticides.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Food and Drug Administration 1. To protect consumers from unreasonable exposure to the residues of cancelled pesticides, the Administrator, EPA, and the Commissioner, FDA, should work together to determine, on the basis of the most recent data, the appropriate action levels for residues of the five cancelled chlorinated pesticides in fish.
Closed - Implemented
Recently enacted legislation appears to partially supersede this recommendation. The Food Quality Protection Act, enacted on August 8, 1996, imposes new requirements on EPA and authorizes it to establish tolerances for residues of cancelled, persistent pesticides. The law also establishes new health standards for tolerances. EPA is examining the implications of the legislation for contaminants in fish in interstate commerce. However, because the federal government's responsibilities are limited to fish in interstate commerce EPA issued guidance in June 1996 for local governments to develop local fish consumption advisories. The guidance explained that, while action levels for pesticide residues ensure a safe food supply for consumers of commercial fish, they may be inappropriate for consumers of locally caught fish. EPA advised local governments that they need to assess risks associated with consumption of local, noncommercial fish, and when appropriate, develop local fish consumption advisories.
Environmental Protection Agency 2. To protect consumers from unreasonable exposure to the residues of cancelled pesticides, the Administrator, EPA, and the Commissioner, FDA, should work together to determine, on the basis of the most recent data, the appropriate action levels for residues of the five cancelled chlorinated pesticides in fish.
Closed - Implemented
Recently enacted legislation appears to partially supersede this recommendation. The Food Quality Protection Act, enacted on August 8, 1996, imposes new requirements on EPA and authorizes it to establish tolerances for residues of cancelled, persistent pesticides. The law also establishes new health standards for tolerances. EPA is examining the implications of the legislation for contaminants in fish in interstate commerce. However, because the federal government's responsibilities are limited to fish in interstate commerce EPA issued guidance in June 1996 for local governments to develop local fish consumption advisories. The guidance explained that, while action levels for pesticide residues ensure a safe food supply for consumers of commercial fish, they may be inappropriate for consumers of locally caught fish. EPA advised local governments that they need to assess risks associated with consumption of local, noncommercial fish, and when appropriate, develop local fish consumption advisories.
Environmental Protection Agency 3. The Administrator, EPA, should periodically reevaluate and lower action level recommendations to reflect decreases in environmental residue levels.
Closed - Implemented
Recently enacted legislation appears to partially supersede this recommendation. The Food Quality Protection Act, enacted on August 8, 1996, imposes new requirements on EPA and authorizes it to establish tolerances for residues of cancelled, persistent pesticides. The law also establishes new health standards for tolerances. EPA is examining the implications of the legislation for contaminants in fish in interstate commerce. However, because the federal government's responsibilities are limited to fish in interstate commerce EPA issued guidance in June 1996 for local governments to develop local fish consumption advisories. The guidance explained that, while action levels for pesticide residues ensure a safe food supply for consumers of commercial fish, they may be inappropriate for consumers of locally caught fish. EPA advised local governments that they need to assess risks associated with consumption of local, noncommercial fish, and when appropriate, develop local fish consumption advisories.
Environmental Protection Agency 4. To expedite the revocation of tolerances for cancelled pesticides and make more efficient use of scarce resources, the Administrator, EPA, should establish procedures for concurrently conducting tolerance revocation and cancellation actions and, when necessary, set an effective date for revocation that gives growers enough time to use existing stocks of the cancelled pesticide.
Closed - Implemented
EPA has established Standard Operating Procedures, dated January 18, 1996, for revoking tolerances for uses of pesticides that are unsupported in reregistration.
Environmental Protection Agency 5. To expedite the revocation of tolerances for cancelled pesticides and make more efficient use of scarce resources, the Administrator, EPA, should identify the pesticides whose registrations for food uses have already been cancelled and revoke their tolerances.
Closed - Implemented
EPA has identified a total of 33 pesticide active ingredients for which all food uses have been cancelled, and has established a schedule for revoking their tolerances.

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